Sydney Brown found himself at the middle of the first scrum at Eagles training camp on Tuesday.
That wasn’t much of a surprise.
Brown plays with an aggressive style that’s firmly on the edge and always through the whistle. He plays with his hair on fire, and he has a lot of hair.
It’s the kind of play style that has probably irked opponents in the past.
“I’m sure. I’m sure,” Brown said. “I want to be a feared player. That’s kind of my mindset going into this. Then again, just playing with that intensity every single day, you’re going to connect at some point and you’re going to feel it.
“My intention isn’t to hurt people but if you’re carrying that football, yeah, you got it coming for you.”
Browns running back Demetric Felton Jr., was not carrying the football on Tuesday when he was leveled by Brown near the Cleveland sideline during a joint practice. But Felton made the mistake of getting near Brown as Reed Blankenship began to return his interception down the sideline.
Brown obliterated Felton — with a hit Brown believes was legal — and the Browns were not happy. They surrounded the rookie third-round pick from Illinois and a spirited shoving match ensued.
“Just a little scuffle,” said Brown, playing it off. “That’s all that it was. They’re practicing hard, we’re practicing hard and that’s what it turns into. High intensity practice. It’s hot outside, it’s earlier in the day. We were ready to go.”
Yeah, everyone was practicing hard on Tuesday but it’s tough to imagine anyone was practicing harder than Brown. If Brown doesn’t succeed in the NFL, it won’t be for lack of effort.
His teammates see that too.
“One thing you will not question about Sydney is his effort,” cornerback Avonte Maddox said. “He gives you a ton of effort. Even if he’s messing up, it’s 100 percent.”
Everything about Brown is 100 percent. We saw that on Saturday night in his NFL preseason debut when he finished the game with nine solo tackles in 41 snaps. He also flew down the field as a gunner on the punt team.
At times, fans will probably enjoy watching Brown play just as much as his teammates do.
“He’s like a heat-seeking missile,” Maddox said. “He’s coming down there and he’s trying to kill anything he sees.”
Brown was flying around the field on Saturday and showing off that play style, which follows his mindset on the field.
He wants to be feared.
“I think that just comes with the effort that you put in,” Brown said. “A lot of guys can say they want to be feared players but it’s about what you do on the field, it’s about the actions that you take to become that person. You know what I mean?
“It’s just the way that you play that makes you that type of person. I can’t say that I am one (a feared player) yet because I haven’t done anything but I guess it just comes from passion, it comes from want-to, it comes from wanting to get to where I want to be.”
Brown, 23, grew up in Ontario, Canada, and admittedly didn’t watch a ton of football growing up. So if you were expecting this story to be about Brown watching clips of Troy Polamalu or Brian Dawkins as a kid and emulating them … this isn’t that.
But Brown has since grown fond of those types of players because he feels a certain kinship with them.
“I love their style of play, I love the intensity that they brought, the passion that they had for the game,” Brown explained. “That’s stuff that you can’t teach. That’s stuff that they just had within them. I’m not saying I’m anything like them. But I love that passion that they had for the game and I love this game just as much as they did, I’m sure.”
In the two joint practices against Cleveland, Brown began to get more and more first-team reps. With less than four weeks to go before the season opener, it’s not out of the question that Brown could still earn a starting gig.
One of the Eagles’ two safety spots clearly belongs to Reed Blankenship, who is having a fantastic summer. Blankenship had two interceptions off Deshaun Watson on Tuesday after picking him off once on Monday.
But that other safety job isn’t solidified yet. Terrell Edmunds, K’Von Wallace and Brown are all seemingly still in contention. Maybe the Eagles settle on one of those veterans to begin the season, but it’s pretty clear Brown is coming.
And he’s giving it all he’s got.
“I’m going to come out here and compete my a— off every single day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the temperature is, what’s going on outside, doesn’t matter what the element is, I’m coming out here to play football every single day.”